Some notes and observations:
- Tommy and Joel share a similar past as they did in the games, where Joel led Tommy to do some inhumane, awful things that neither of them ever feel comfortable directly addressing. But at least in the show, their relationship is warmer and more emotionally intelligent. Tommy seems acutely aware of and sympathetic to his brother’s trauma. And Joel sees Tommy less as an equal and more as someone he needs to “save.”
- We see a hint of Joel’s past cruelty when he holds up the Native American couple at gunpoint. When he asks about a location on the map, he tells the husband that it’d better be the same answer as his wife’s. Viewers familiar with the game know the dark implications of this quip. If the answer was different, one of the two wouldn’t be telling the truth.
- Rutina Wesley plays Maria with a sharp tongue and a sharper mind. While she’s not exactly in charge of the Jackson commune, it’s clear she commands respect — and has worked hard to earn it. We learn that Maria used to be a district attorney, which explains her ability to speak with confidence and authority.
- The show completely removes the unnecessary action setpieces from the game, specifically the firefights at the hydroelectric dam and the house where Joel and Ellie argue when she overhears his request to Tommy. Both action sequences were demanded by the fact that “The Last of Us” is an action game. But HBO’s interpretation is a television drama, not an action show. Plus, neither action sequences really helped us learn anything new about any of the characters. Nothing is missed, and instead we get to know our characters more through some compelling performances.